After Saturday's surprising finish at Run for Green, I'm starting to wonder whether I should be revising my goals for the Richmond Marathon.
It's difficult to get a good sense of where you stand when you're training over the summer. The weather is so hot and humid, you're inevitably going to slow down. But how much? You can't know for sure until fall arrives and you can run in cool weather again. I got that chance on Saturday and what I found out is that I'm quite a bit faster than I thought.
I was never really pushing very hard, and yet I managed to maintain a 7:13 pace for 13 miles on what is, by all accounts, a very difficult course. The cumulative elevation gain at the Run for Green half-marathon is more than what I'll see during the entire Richmond Marathon. My plan for Run for Green had been to try to keep a 7:30 pace, but clearly I can handle a much faster pace than that. On a flatter half-marathon course, I'm pretty sure I could manage a sub-7-minute pace.
While I'm wary of putting too much stock in pace calculators, based on my Run for Green time, McMillan Running predicts a marathon pace of 7:37 per mile. That works out to a time of 3:19 for the race, or 6 minutes faster than my goal of 3:25, without even accounting for the fact that Richmond is an easier course.
So, what should I do when I get to Richmond? Should I stick with my original plan of going out at a 7:49 pace, just fast enough to minimally qualify for Boston? Should I go with McMillan's pace of 7:37, or even faster since this is an easier course?
I think given my end-of-race struggles in my first two marathons, it's a mistake to go out too fast. But I do think 7:49 is a little too conservative, especially considering that people who just barely beat their Boston Qualifying times can still fail to actually be invited to race. For now I think I'm going to shoot for a 7:40 pace. That works out to a 3:21 marathon, which would still be a fantastic time for me. If I'm feeling great at Mile 20, I might consider speeding up a bit and trying to finish under 3:20, which would allow me to register early for Boston.
After two weeks of training that were disrupted a bit by racing, this week is slated to be a tough training week: 70 miles including some hard tempo runs on Thursday and a lot of marathon-pace running on Sunday. If the weather stays cool, I'll be running at my new marathon pace of 7:40.